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Opening Thoughts

What’s up guys and gals, CaptainPlanet here to present the Overwatch Hero Tier List and Meta Report: The Meta That Was. It’s been two weeks since the last meta report and since that time we have had crazy roster changes, map controversy, and a potentially game-changing patch release in the world of Overwatch. This week, I will start by discussing the meta leading up to the Winter Wonderland patch, but will focus primarily on the meta that may be on display at MLG Vegas as competing teams experiment with post-rework Symmetra. Then, I will close out by taking advantage of MLG’s fixed map pool and my own team map performance data to break down each team’s preferred maps to create a viewer’s guide for the opening stages of the tournament. Before we hop in, let’s take a quick look at the Overwatch hero landscape as it stood before Symmetra returned from the drawing to crash the party.


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Tiers

S Tier (>=95% Usage Rate): Lucio (95%)

A Tier (>80% Usage Rate): Reinhardt (88%)

B Tier (>50% Usage Rate): Ana (69%), Roadhog (64%), D.Va (61%), Zarya (51%)

C Tier (>20% Usage Rate): Soldier 76 (38%), Tracer (35%), Zenyatta (33%), Mei (21%)

D Tier (>5% Usage Rate): Genji (13%), Winston (12%), McCree (11%)

F Tier (<5% Usage Rate): Sombra (2%), Reaper (2%), Mercy (1%), Pharah (1%), Widowmaker (1%), Torbjorn (1%), Hanzo (0%), Symmetra (0%), Junkrat (0%), Bastion (0%)

Caution: take the F Tier with a grain of salt … it only represents the usage from a single tournament: the Overwatch World Cup. It is not meant to tell you that your favorite Hero is garbage nor is it meant for you to use as ammo to flame people in ranked play. Let’s be nice to each other.

Additionally: I do not chose the placement of heroes in a tier, only the range which defines the tier. By determining usage directly from hero time played in tournament matches, my data is objectively determined, and not subjective. I call these ranges “tiers” for SEO reasons, not because I enjoy making tier lists… Google just really loves the word “tier” for some reason


The Meta that Was

If I were to create an homage of matches to describe the current meta, I could not do better than the real-life beatdown EnVyUs delivered to poor Afreeca Freecs Blue in the finals of Apex. I created a quick readout of the hero usage in Envy’s 4-0 sweep below to illustrate:

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This was a clash of two competing meta philosophies – or at least a great example of what happens when you try to go against a top team playing the strongest heroes available. EnVyUs largely kept to their “meta core” heroes: Ana, D.Va, Lucio, Reinhardt, Roadhog, and Soldier 76. Afreeca on the other hand was all over the place, trying to fit a round peg in a square hole while running in vain from the EnVyUs steamroller bearing down on them. It should be mentioned that these finals occurred just after my previous report of Misfits and their spectacular counter-meta win at Dreamhack and that it kicked off two weeks of further skewing towards tank-heavy lineups.

Nowadays, D.Va’s usage in particular has grown to the point that it has forced Zarya back into lineups as her natural counter, and Mei as an every-tank counter. Overwatch’s players now play in an environment where the buff to D.Va, the weeks of no changes to Ana’s healing output, and the evergreen strength of Lucio, Reinhardt, and Roadhog’s Hook have created tanks that do excessive damage while maintaining their tank-level survivability. One of these two needs to change, either directly or indirectly, for the meta at large to change. As we’re about to find out, Symmetra could be the answer, or could escalate the issue to new heights.


Much ado about Symmetra:

All of this tank meta talk could be turned on its head because MLG Vegas will be played on the Winter Wonderland patch, which includes Symmetra’s rework. Symmetra’s changes have been detailed in the recent patch notes but I attached a handy image here as a quick reminder:

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I reached out to pros preparing for both MLG Vegas and IEM Gyeonggi about “new” Symmetra, and opinions on how her kit will affect the meta were fairly split. All, however, were quite convinced that their take on her impact was correct. If there’s one constant about Overwatch, its that you can count on pro’s confidence! This weekend, we will see the Mike Tyson quote that Hexagrams and ZP love to mention play out: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Right now, the teams preparing for MLG and IEM have their own different Symmetra-based plans, and some of them just are not going to work out. As a thought experiment, I’m going to take two scenarios that are being tested in scrims right now, ratchet the concepts up to 11, and let you make the judgment on where on the spectrum of these competing visions that the perfect type of Symmetra usage might fall this weekend.


Symmetra Single-Handedly Ends the Tank Meta

I was lucky enough to spend some time with the Complexity Overwatch team this weekend and Harbleu – one of the world’s best Roadhog players – made an excellent point when we were discussing their experience with Symmetra on the PTR: he won’t be able to 1-shot anyone as long as Symmetra’s Shield Generator is active. The tank lineups that have “plagued” the meta in recent times depend on the damage output of Roadhog’s 1-shots and D.Va’s 1v1 dueling capability but with Shield Generator active, DPS and Supports transform into pseudo-tanks with 225 (Tracer), 325 (Reaper and Mei), or 275 (everyone else) health. Under Shield Generator’s helpful aura, Soldier 76 and Reaper may actually be able to out-duel D.Va and one of the upsides to playing Roadhog could disappear. Could this usher in a new era of DPS heroes – at least on defense?

Joemeister – the player that will be playing Symmetra on Complexity – also noted that Symmetra’s Projected Barrier changes the very nature of most engagements in Overwatch. Excluding a couple wild weeks of “Orb-ital Destruction” in Closed Beta, many if not most skirmishes in professional Overwatch place great importance on the “Shield Game”: the process by which one team breaks the other’s Reinhardt shield. In the days of double-McCree, this involved Speed Boosting McCree into Flashbang range, but in contemporary Roadhog-D.Va-Soldier 76 lineups this is all about spam and Defense Matrix. Whichever team uses their Roadhog right clicks, Soldier 76 spam and Helix Rockets, and Defense Matrix better tends to break Reinhardt’s shield first, allowing the tanks to move forward to create space for their Soldier 76 to pick up kills. However with Photon Barrier, Symmetra can disrupt the “Shield Game” on a fundamental level. Spamming Photon Barrier on cooldown on top of absorbing projectiles with Defense Matrix may make the “Shield Game” a never-ending loop, forcing one side to ignore the shield and go in anyway. Or, the Symmetra could wait for the Reinhardt’s shield to break and the enemy team to dive, then fire off a Photon Barrier to counter their dive and create a surprise advantage to her team. Perhaps teams will forgo using Reinhardt entirely and just use Photon Barrier as their cover during a coordinate dive. One thing’s for certain, we’re entering a new era of barriers in Overwatch.

Symmetra Cements the Tank Meta Even Further

Another pro was quick to note a simple fact: what’s harder to kill than a 600 HP D.Va? Easy answer: a 675 HP D.Va. Despite all of the advantages tanks may lose against defending DPS heroes boosted by a hidden Shield Generator, they may just become unkillable juggernauts themselves. Is an attacking team supposed to bring on an attack Symmetra so that their DPS can stand against a 675 HP D.Va and Roadhog, a 575 HP Reinhardt, and an Ana Biotic-Grenading them back to full? It’s a frightening image that makes one wonder if defending multi-tank lineups will ever concede a single point, or if every fight will turn into an all-out, multiple-minute long brawl wherever the Shield Generator is located.

One (admittedly desperate) strategy for the attacking team would be to go all-out on diving the Symmetra before she can get her Shield Generator up, but this precludes any action taken towards capping the point. Another could be to cheese a Sombra ultimate to full abusing health packs and attempt an early EMP to remove all of the bonus Shield Generator health, but this means you have to run an offensive Sombra – something only Complexity has felt brave enough to do thus far.

Further notes:

Symmetra may now be a viable support/dps replacement on first point defense, similar to how she was used in closed beta. Her beam length has increased, making both attaching and maintaining a link on her target much easier. Additionally, removing her turret “carrying” limit re-opens up “kill room” strategies and helps create artificial chokepoints for defenders. Here’s the best bit of evidence I’ve been able to scavenge though: there’s a team that shall remain nameless that has been seriously practicing triple-support, attack Symmetra. The Symmetra is this lineups’ Nanoboost target – using her beam’s damage stacking and her turrets’ slowing effects to replace the need for old Nanoboost’s speed increase. As soon as the boosted Symmetra beam latches on, nothing short of a hard-disable will prevent their rapid death. South Korea famously demonstrated the Symmetra-Boost potential in the Overwatch World Cup, although with somewhat lackluster results:

https://clips.twitch.tv/blizzard/PoorChimpanzeeRiPepperonis

These are some of the experimental scenarios being tested with the reworked Symmetra, but her effect on the meta could fall anywhere between the two, or outside the spectrum entirely. We will see the first examples of her potential at MLG Vegas and IEM Gyeonggi, and I for one am extremely excited to see what happens.


MLG Vegas Preview

Despite all of the controversy sweeping the competitive scene leading into MLG, there is one silver lining to having fixed map pools: having a base from which to make predictions based on past performance. I have been collecting data on tournaments played throughout Season 2 and 3 and can now speculate on whether the map pools chosen favor or disfavor any teams based on their history. What follows will be a dive into each team’s maps played in the past several months, as well as things to watch out for as you keep up with the matches throughout the weekend.


Group A

Group Stages Map Pool: King’s Row, Nepal, Dorado, Temple of Anubis, Ilios, Route 66, Watchpoint: Gibraltar, Hanamura


EnVyUs

Team stats:

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EnVyUs is rolling into Vegas as the favorite to win the tournament and it’s pretty obvious why. The bars of blue that you see in their hero pool speaks to their recent success at major events, and their high usage of tank-meta-defining heroes speaks to their position as a trendsetter in the scene. Chipshajen has been playing the Ana of his life – using her in every single one of Envy’s recorded matches in my database – and should be a great player to watch during the tournament for huge Sleep Dart plays.

Looking to their group stage map pool, EnVyUs should be very pleased with their draw. Envy has positive winrates on King’s Row, Nepal, Dorado, Watchpoint: Gibraltar, and Numbani – all maps that they might potentially play in Group A. Envy will have to watch out for Temple of Anubis and Ilios however: both of these maps appear in the pool for the second round of their group stages and Envy has deliberately avoided playing these maps in the past. Their opponents would be well-informed to practice these maps in particular, as Taimou has been struggling with visa issues and EnVyUs may have not had time to properly bootcamp for the event.


Complexity

Team stats:

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Complexity is coming into MLG with something to prove. There were times during early Overwatch where Complexity was considered the second best team in NA, but after a difficult Season 2 leading to a recent semifinal exit at Dreamhack Winter, Complexity just wants to show the world that they belong in the conversation again. Lucky for them, they have one of the world’s best tank players in Harbleu, a Roadhog and Zarya specialist. That’s not all though, their entire team has a flexible hero pool and have been putting in heavy bootcamp work at NVIDIA’s headquarters for the past week. Recently, TorkTJO has lead the charge in competitive Sombra usage, a decision that may pay off handsomely if the meta shifts towards Symmetra-based defenses.

Unfortunately for Complexity, their best map – Hollywood – will not be available for them in their group play. They also have a history of drafting into Watchpoint: Gribraltar, signaling a preference for a map they actually tend not to win on. However five matches is a low sample size and Complexity has likely been bootcamping all of the maps in their pool throughout the week with special focus on the maps that may give them a leg up on their first round opponents, EnVyUs.


Fnatic

Team stats:

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Similar to Complexity, Fnatic has a lot to prove coming into MLG Vegas after also losing a very close set to Misfits in the Dreamhack Winter final. This was Fnatic’s first LAN since IDDQD’s exodus and picking up Hafficool – a versatile flex player that has been playing a lot of D.Va for Fnatic due to the current meta. Fnatic’s most played map in my database is Dorado, followed by Hollywood, King’s Row, and Watchpoint: Gibraltar. Fnatic will hopefully be putting in a lot of bootcamp time practicing Dorado in particular, because with six tournament matches played on this map in recent times they have only won twice. Should they lose one of their first two maps vs. Rise Nation on King’s Row and Nepal (which they’ve dropped 2 of their past 3 games), Dorado will be the deciding map which could send them to the lower bracket or forwards to game two of the upper bracket.


Rise Nation

Team stats:

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Rise is a relatively new face in the competitive scene and thus one that I do not have a lot of data on. They were regrettably mired in the MSI fiasco in London last week along with FaZe and thus also lost a lot of potential practice time leading up to MLG Vegas. Since I don’t have a lot of data to speak to for Rise, I reached out to Phaz, their support player, to ask him a couple of questions about the map pool and their preparation going into MLG instead:

CP: Your group stages map pool includes King’s Row, Nepal, Dorado, Temple of Anubis, Ilios, Route 66, Watchpoint: Gibraltar, and Hanamura. In my dataset I have you guys showing a preference towards payload maps like King’s Row, Dorado, and Hollywood – are payload maps something you guys scrim more than other types?

Phaz: We practice everything, but we’ve been able to take maps off every team attending this tournament on payload maps…so I think not only is it comfort but it’s something we know we can win on. Our favorite map type is actually king of the hill, but when we get to tournaments it’s shakey. We have beat teams known for their strong KotH play in scrims, but have both beat and lost to those same teams in tournaments so it is a bit weird.

CP: Are there any deficiencies in other teams’ map pools you wish to exploit?

Phaz: I think a lot of teams aren’t as good on king of the hill compared to us, and we have some ‘weird’ comfort maps that people don’t play. The thing is the meta right now is so stall-y and it doesn’t really matter what map you run that on.

CP: What maps do you think Symmetra will see the most play in ? Why/Why not?

Phaz: 2CP and first point chokes just like before really. Shield Generator on 2CP last point should be super good, but due to MSI we didn’t get to scrim the PTR at all, so we don’t have any Symmetra play. This is my take as support player and theorycrafting…but it seems like a lot of teams didn’t get to scrim PTR either so we may not even see her. I’d have to wager that Complexity would be the ones to try her out of everyone though, they run funny lineups.

It’s a shame that Rise and FaZe didn’t get to prepare as well for this tournament due to the MSI debacle, but hopefully they perform well regardless. Good luck to Phaz and Rise Nation!


Group B

Group Stages Map Pool: Eichenwalde, Lijiang Tower, Numbani, Temple of Anubis, Ilios, Route 66, Hanamura, Watchpoint: Gibraltar

FaZe Clan

Team Stats

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FaZe is the best represented team in my dataset in terms of total numbers, so we can get a pretty clear picture of what maps they like to play, and what maps they are best at. Like Complexity, FaZe is known to prefer Watchpoint: Gibraltar, but they have had a bit more success in Season 2 with a winrate over 60%. FaZe also prefers Hollywood and has a similar winrate there, but will be unable to play it due to its absence from the pool. This is more than made up by their recent success on Route 66 and Lijiang Tower, both of which will be available in the MLG group stages. Out of the 8 teams coming to MLG this weekend, FaZe seems poised with the best map draw of them all. FaZe also has a great watchability factor to their games, between Shadowburn’s Genji heroics and Twoeasy’s fiery trash talk: keep an eye on the all-chat whenever he starts going off. They also just failed to qualify for the Overwatch Winter Premier and are likely rolling into Vegas looking for blood and a win to erase their unfortunate results from the past week.


Liquid

Team Stats

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Like Rise, Liquid has a low representation in my data set because they did not play in a lot of streamed tournament matches in Season 2. Luckily, we got to see them play this week during the Winter Premier qualifiers where they were able to take a map of Watchpoint: Gibraltar off of fellow MLG invitees Fnatic and Complexity in quarterfinal matches. Despite their relatively rough showing in these qualifiers (Liquid qualified through points and only reached the semifinals once) these Watchpoint wins give them a bit of hope going into MLG. But, this silver lining may be as ephemeral as Reaper in Wraith form: to actually play a Watchpoint: Gibraltar map, Liquid will have to reach Group B’s decider match round, a tall order having to go through FaZe, Cloud 9, or NRG.


NRG

Team Stats

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In their tournament play, NRG has framed themselves as Numbani experts – after all, who can forget Seagull’s amazing first point Bastion defenses? They also carry a positive winrate on Hollywood, but most of this data comes from their old, pre-world cup lineup with Gods and Pookz. The new lineup with the addition of Numlocked and Clockwork is relatively untested and so far only has a disappointing exit from the Winter Premier Qualifiers under their belt. NRG was lucky to draw Group B given their prior success with Numbani, but like all of the teams in MLG Vegas their past success with Hollywood will not help them in the group stages. Seagull at least will always bring in the views with his exciting plays, but we will have to see if the new NRG can stand up to the rest of the NA region. Their first match is against Cloud 9 and should be an extremely difficult test regardless of the map pool.


Cloud 9

Team Stats

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Cloud 9 has a reputation for being one of the most creative teams in Overwatch and I expect their lineup experimentations to be on full display this weekend at MLG Vegas. In recent times, the versatility of Mendokusaii and Surefour has been wasted on the tank meta with Mendo being forced to play D.Va and Zarya instead of traditional fraggers. Adam has been similarly pidgeonholed into maining Lucio to duo Roolf’s Ana and Zenyatta and is likely licking his chops ready to unleash the new Symmetra upon the world. This is Cloud 9’s biggest test since their post-Eleague roster shuffle as well and perhaps their best opportunity to shake the LAN curse that has plagued them since Overwatch’s release date tournaments. Will they be the team to finally take down EnVyUs? Or will one of the other six challenger step up to the plate? We’re all about to find out.


Final Thoughts

Let’s not forget that IEM Gyeonggi is also happening this weekend! This tournament will feature two teams that recently went through the largest player trade in Overwatch, resulting in Misfits gaining TviQ and Reinforce and Rogue gaining SoOn and Skipjack. These EU powerhouses should perform very well in this Korea-based tournament filled with the likes of Afreeca Freecs Blue, Kongdoo Uncia, and Lunatic Hai. Viewers hoping for Misfits and Rogue to face off will have to root for an all EU final, as they’re currently set on opposite sides of the bracket. I personally want to see them meet, if only to witness the power of Misfits’ fully operational Swedish battlestation lineup. Make sure you tune in to both MLG Vegas and IEM Gyeonggi this weekend, they’re going to be spectacular!

Until next time,

 

CaptainPlanet